By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
We’re all familiar with the baby’s breath plant (Gypsophila paniculata), from bridal bouquets to cut flower arrangements that use the small, delicate white flowers, fresh or dried, to fill in around larger blooms. But did you know that baby’s breath flowers can grow easily in your garden? You can learn how to dry your own baby’s breath for making arrangements at home and to share with friends simply by growing baby’s breath flowers in your garden.
This plant may be annual or perennial, and baby’s breath flowers grow in rose, pink and white and may have single or double blooms. Double blooming baby’s breath plants have been grafted, so take care to cut above the graft union.
Growing baby’s breath is simple and you’ll likely find it a useful garden specimen. Learning how to grow baby’s breath can be a lucrative hobby, especially if you sell it to florists and others who make professional arrangements.
Growing baby’s breath in a full sun area is relatively simple if the soil pH is right. The baby’s breath plant likes an alkaline or sweet soil. Soil should also be well-draining. If your baby’s breath plant does not perform well, take a soil test to determine the soil’s alkalinity.
Start baby’s breath flowers in the garden from seeds, cuttings or tissue cultured plants.
Reaching 12 to 18 inches (30.5-46 cm.) at maturity, you can harvest and learn how to dry your own baby’s breath flowers. When cutting to dry flowers of the baby’s breath plant, choose stems with just half of the flowers in bloom while others are only buds. Don’t use stems with browning flowers.
Re-cut stems of the baby’s breath under warm running water. Bundle five to seven stems together with twine or a rubber band. Hang these upside down in a dark, warm and well-ventilated room.
Check the drying flowers after five days. When flowers are papery to the touch, they are ready for use in a dried arrangement. If they do not have the papery feel after five days, allow more time, checking every couple of days.
Now that you’ve learned how to grow baby’s breath and how to dry it, include it as a border in your garden. If it does well, check with local florists to see if they are interested in purchasing some of the flowers you’ve perfected in your garden.
NOTE: This plant is considered a noxious weed in some parts of the U.S. and Canada. Before planting anything in your garden, it is always important to check if a plant is invasive in your particular area. Your local extension office can help with this.
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For best results, plant iris rhizomes in July, August or September. This is also the best time (plants are normally dormant during the heat of July and August) to divide and replant iris that have become overcrowded, usually after three to five years. It is important that the roots of newly planted irises be well established before the end of the growing season. Plant your iris at least four to six weeks before your first hard freeze or killing frost.
Irises require at least a half-day (6-8 hours) of direct sunlight. Some afternoon shade is beneficial in extremely hot climates, but in general irises do best in full sun. Iris will grow in deep shade, but probably not flower. Provide your irises with good drainage. A raised bed or planting on a slope are ideal places to plant iris. Good air circulation is essential and water should not stand in the beds.
Bearded irises will thrive in most well drained soils. If you have heavy soil, adding humus – compost – or other organic material – will improve drainage. Gypsum is an excellent soil conditioner that can improve most clay soils. The ideal pH for irises is 6.8 (slightly acidic) but irises are quite tolerant of less-than-perfect soils. Lime may be added to acidic soils and sulfur may be added to alkaline soils. Have your soil tested before making any correction.
Plant your rhizomes at or just barely below the surface of the ground. Irises should be planted so the tops of the rhizomes are visible and the roots are spread out facing downwards in the soil. However, in extremely hot climates or with very light soils, cover rhizomes with up to one inch of soil. Tamp the soil firmly to anchor the rhizomes until new roots begin to grow, and water well. It is a common mistake to plant Irises too deeply.
Step (1) Build up a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole.
Step (2) Center the rhizome on the soil mound and spread out the roots on either side.
Step (3) Firm the soil around the roots. Newly planted rhizomes should be watered thoroughly.
Be Patient — Irises are perennials and require time to grow. New growth may be noticeable within 2-3 weeks and begins with a new center leaf in the fan. Depending upon the maturity of the rhizome and the geographical location, there may or may not be blooms the first Spring.
Build up a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole.
Center the rhizome on the soil mound and spread out the roots on either side.
Firm the soil around the roots. Newly planted rhizomes should be watered thoroughly.
Planting rhizomes 12 to 24 inches apart is the norm. Close planting results in immediate effect, faster clump formation, and more color but makes dividing clumps a necessity in two to three years. The photo to the below shows iris being planted in groups of three. Notice that each of the rhizome “toes” face inward towards each other about 8 inches apart as they are planted.
Newly planted rhizomes need moisture so their root systems develop. Once established, irises should be watered when the top three inches of soil dry out. The watering frequency will depend to a great extent on your environment. Over watering of Irises is a common mistake. After planting, water well and continue watering until the first good rain. If lack of rain persists, watering should be deep enough to penetrate the shallow root system. Less frequent deep watering is better than frequent shallow watering.
The soil type for your area will determine your fertilizer needs. Superphosphate, or a well-balanced fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 are recommended. Avoid anything high in nitrogen as it encourages soft growth that is susceptible to disease. Provide a light application in early spring and again a month after bloom . Place fertilizer around rhizomes, not directly on them. Alfalfa pellets (without salt) are extremely beneficial when incorporated in the soil around newly planted irises. Do NOT use Feed and Weed preparations.
When irises become crowded, usually every three to four years, bloom will decline. At this time, old clumps may be thinned by removing several divisions and leaving a portion of the clump in the ground. A better practice is to remove the entire clump, replenish the soil and replant a few large rhizomes.
Digging a three year iris clump.
Remove excess dirt and discard the old center divisions.
Separate the individual rhizomes for replanting.
It is extremely important to keep your iris beds free of weeds and fallen leaves so the rhizomes may bask in the sun. Spacing plants so there is good air circulation will help prevent diseases. Break out bloomstalks as soon as bloom season is over. This prevents contamination of your named varieties by chance bee crosses. These crosses would cause seedpods to form that might go unnoticed. If given time to ripen, they might drop seeds to the ground. The resulting new plants are often unattractive. So breaking out bloomstalks right away is a good garden practice.
Note: Much of the above planting information was derived from William Shear’s book The Gardener’s Iris Book published by The Taunton Press. Mr. Shear is a biologist at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. He has been growing irises for more than 50 years.
Summer plumes of radiant scarlet red, set against the copper-burgundy foliage on a dense plant vivid flower heads form at every node a great container plant or massed along borders
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Other Species Names: Plumed Cockscomb, Woolflower
Plant Form: upright spreading
Summer Foliage Color: Green
Minimum Sunlight: Full Sun
Maximum Sunlight: Full Sun
Dragon's Breath Plumed Celosia features showy plumes of scarlet flowers rising above the foliage from early summer to mid fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its pointy leaves emerge dark red in spring, turning burgundy in color with showy coppery-bronze variegation and tinges of grayish green throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.
Dragon's Breath Plumed Celosia is a dense herbaceous annual with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its medium texture blends into the garden, but can always be balanced by a couple of finer or coarser plants for an effective composition. This plant will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics. Dragon's Breath Plumed Celosia is recommended for the following landscape applications Mass Planting Border Edging General Garden Use Groundcover Container Planting Hanging Baskets
Dragon's Breath Plumed Celosia will grow to be about 20 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 16 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 12 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. This fast-growing annual will normally live for one full growing season, needing replacement the following year. This plant should only be grown in Full Sunlight. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by cuttings however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation. Dragon's Breath Plumed Celosia is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor containers and hanging baskets. With its upright habit of growth, it is best suited for use as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.
DAYS TO GERMINATION: 14-21 days at 55°F (13°C). Chill seed for 7 days at 35°F (2°C) to improve germination.
Direct seed (recommended): Sow seeds 1/4" deep in early spring for summer bloom or in fall for bloom the following year. Darkness is required for germination. Seeds do not germinate well when soil temperatures are above 55°F (13°C). Does best where summers are cool. Larkspur plants require vernalization (a period of cool temperatures) to trigger flower development. Plants should ideally stay above freezing but below 55°F (13°C) for the first six weeks of growth [the ideal temperature during the vernalization period is 50°F (10°C)]. Without exposure to this cold period, the plants will not flower well. Use of crop supports, for example, horizontal trellis, is recommended. Transplant: Grow at 55°F (13°C) until ready to plant outside. Plants have tap roots and do not transplant readily.
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Rich, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil.
HARVEST: Fresh: When 2-3 basal flowers are open on up to 1/3 of stem.
Dried: When the majority of the flowers on stem are open but before petals drop. Retains color when dried.
USES: Excellent cut or dried flower. Good for back of beds.
Because of its ability to withstand periods of drought, Russian sage is a good choice for xeriscaping. It’s also rabbit and deer resistant, and seldom has problems with pests or diseases. Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees are often drawn to them.
Use Russian sage and these 19 other plants in dry environments.
Dig into low water-use landscaping. This garden style is low-maintenance but big on beauty.
Use Russian sage in a perennial garden design that features other plants with strong summer and fall colors. Russian sage blends beautifully with ornamental grasses, like switch grass (Panicum virgatum), purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora) and ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’).
Other great perennial partners for Russian sage that attract butterflies and pollinating insects include joe-pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) and goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’).
Try using this nearly carefree plant in your perennial border, where it will bloom for a long period of time. Its long wands, studded with blooms, give the plants an airy, cottage garden feel, and its blue color contrasts nicely with pink roses, begonias, phlox, lemon yellow lantanas, coreopsis, marigolds, purple English lavender, silvery lamb’s ear or artemisia. It’s also lovely planted alongside yellow rudbeckias and ornamental grasses.